Editorial writer’s passion was forged by her own health issues. Now she’s a Pulitzer winner

April 18, 2018

Andie Dominick grew up delivering Des Moines Register newspapers with her brother. On Monday, she was awarded that news organization’s 17th Pulitzer Prize.

Dominick won for editorial writing for a series of reported editorials on Iowa’s decision to privatize Medicaid and other health care policy issues. The judges praised her for “examining in a clear, indignant voice, free of cliché or sentimentality the damaging consequences for poor Iowa residents of privatizing the state’s administration of Medicaid.”

Understanding health care policy is personal for her.

Dominick, 47, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 9. She wrote a book called “Needles: A Memoir of Growing Up with Diabetes.” She recalls her father telling her that she would always need a job that provided insurance. “That probably is what still drives me,” she said. 

She now tells the stories of her fellow Iowans’ challenges with illnesses and insurance.

“I think it’s a perfect intersection when we can match the needs of the audience and the individual journalist’s passion,” said Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Register. 

Dominick joined the Register in 2001 as an editorial writer after teaching writing at Iowa State, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.

“I was never a news reporter; I was a creative writer,” she said.

But Hunter said that Dominick’s editorials stand out for their reporting authority. “She does so much original research; looking at data. … She has truly become an expert in health policy.”

Dominick said that she reads the legislative bills and court rulings and tries to understand the process so she can explain changes to readers.

Patients and providers called the Register to report problems with losing access to care and reimbursement denials by the managed care companies. "We became the place people turned to when they were desperate for help," she said.

Dominick’s writing process includes a self-edit on her intensity about the subject. “Sometimes, it’s too over the top. I have to go back and tone myself down a little bit.” She reads her work aloud and revises, and then revises again, deleting excess words.

Dominick was a Pulitzer finalist in 2014 for editorial writing. “You’re so shocked and humbled. … It’s kind of a flukey thing, you know, the English major.”

When she started at the Register, she was among a staff of 10 people. Right now, she and the opinion editor write editorials, said Hunter. Dominick works 20 hours a week. (She is on her husband’s health insurance policy.)

Dominick leans on former editorial board members to talk through her ideas and Iowa’s history. They filled her inbox with congratulations after the Pulitzer announcement. The former editor, Dennis Ryerson, described her editorials as “never condescending, never preachy but rather to the point, credible.”

Dominick said health care will persist as inspiration for her. “Getting people decent health insurance is going to be a fight for years to come.”